I’m surprised the column left out some “lottery winning tips” I keep hearing about.

I’ve been told more than once about an article that explained that winning lottery numbers contained consecutive numbers 70% of the time. Therefore, the people telling this concluded, you can increase you chance of winning by picking consecutive numbers.

The first time we heard this, my girlfriend and I, being mathy sorts (she more than I) scratched our head and set out to a quick estimation of probabilities. And found that, indeed, if you randomly pick 5 numbers from 42(ish - it’s been long enough that I don’t recall the exact numbers) possible, choosing each one once, you get at least two consecutive numbers around 70% of the time.

“Well, you just proved that it works!” our friend who told us about this “trick” declared.

Well, no. Exactly the opposite. That 70% of the time the winning numbers will have consecutive numbers is true, but completely useless to know.

This proves that 70% of the possible combinations include consecutive numbers.

It tells you NOTHING about which combination will be chosen.

Any specific combination *without* consecutive numbers is just as likely to be chosen as any specific combination *with* consecutive numbers - it’s just that there are MORE specific combinations with consecutive numbers.